I am writing this during the COVID-19 pandemic. One can usually find the bright side to even the darkest of tragedies. As someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), when taking a walk, it isn’t unusual for me to change paths to avoid crossing paths with someone. I am delighted when I have a trail to myself. I continue in the midst of this pandemic of taking walks and am amused I have the excuse of a pandemic to dodge human beings on the path. Seriously, I yearn for the day I can go back to social distancing on MY terms.
A coping mechanism for me during quarantine is to play games on-line. I would have never thought I would become a video-gamer. Not in a million years. You see I have never wanted to play games with others. I didn’t as a kid and that has no changed with my aging. I am a do-it-myself person. I am content as I can be in entertaining myself in solitary. Just one of my qualities living with ASD.
It was shortly before the pandemic, around Christmas of 2019, that I took up video-gaming. It only takes one video game console to dive into video games. Logically, I know that. But one of my ASD traits is I go way, way overboard with anything I try and fall head over heels with. I do mean overboard! This explains why that Christmas I bought myself an Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and a virtual reality device. The gaming was an offshoot to my long-held obsession with electronic gadgets. After all, video consoles do have power cords attached to them.
The video-gaming hobby came at a good time though as COVID-19 became a household word. My having to go into quarantine was not as much a challenge for me as other family members since social isolation is what I daily do on the Spectrum. But I got bored and anxious like most people did and gaming was a coping mechanism.
I also did on-line surveys to pass the time. It’s another “solo” activity and the extra plus is I am paid with a little bit of spending money and gift cards. One of the surveys I took was on the topic of video-gaming. No surprise that my answers proved to be a snapshot of my ASD.
Some of the survey questions asked the following:
Do I prefer games that focus on single-player vs. multi-player?
This was the easiest question to answer. I don’t play solitaire, but I do play in solitary.
Do I play just for fun vs. being a serious gotta-win gamer?
Winning isn’t my motive for playing. I don’t know what it is to be a serious winner. Oh, I like to win, but I can have fun without winning.
There’s an old saying that practice makes perfect. Well, I am happy to say that with more gaming practice, I have on occasion ended a game in “first place”.
Do I care more about playing games to help me improve real-life skills such as fine and gross motor skills or more about games letting me live a different life than I really have?
The games exercise my gross and fine motor skills, both of which need plenty of fine-tuning. So I care more about that. However, I am entertained with getting to race cars and shoot targets that I have only done in my imagination.
Did I prefer games with realistic themes vs. fantasy or sci-fi?
I had a wild imagination as a child and I haven’t lost that in my senior years. Delving into fantasy and sci-fi is a break from the business of living.
Did I enjoy playing game puzzles, such as jigsaw, or did I find such games boring?
I don’t find game puzzles boring. I am a jigsaw fan and of other word and board games. Puzzles have for several years been food for my ASD brain!
Did I tend to play games for action vs. games with a story?
Action is my favorite because it is quick. A story requires focus and patience and I don’t have much of either. That’s one reason why I’m not big on reading books or watching movies. If I do watch a movie, it is at home by myself and where I can do something else, like a crossword puzzle, during the movie.
Did I prefer games that challenged my mind vs. games that offered a big reward?
I care nothing about the rewards. I pay little attention to the game statistics and reward number. The games are food for my mind and practice for my skills. During the pandemic, video-gaming has been fun, a way to pass the time, and take my mind off of the dark headlines.
Did I schedule a time to play video games or only played during my free time?
Another easy question. A schedule helps to keep me on a steady keel. Most everything I do is on a schedule and gaming is not an exception.
Do I prefer games that are single-tasked or multi-tasked?
Single, please! The fewer buttons on the remote that I have to push the better are my chances of a decent score. One of my favorite single-tasked games is Ping-Pong, for example. It’s a game on my virtual reality device. I play with an alien-like figure instead of choosing to play with real-life humans on-line. My focus is hitting the ball over the net. I have more success at this game versus one where I have to use multiple buttons such as moving right to left or up and down, another button to perform some action, and so on. I play multi-tasked games, but my strength is a game where my focus is only on one task.
Finally, my ASD is still at play when I have a game controller in hand. My lack of balance, motor skills, and speed put me at a disadvantage but with practice, I am improving and that motivates me to keep at it. My goal isn’t to finish third, second, or first. It is primarily to have fun, especially during a pandemic!